The World Health Organization has approved the first rapid detection blood test for Ebola. While it is less accurate than other tests, it takes only 15 minutes for the results, rather than several hours. The rapid detection Ebola test that was approved is good for remote regions in Africa, because it can be used without electricity and outside of a lab setting. The current Ebola tests have relied on blood analysis that occurs in a laboratory in order to find Ebola’s genetic material and can take up to 24 hours to deliver results.
The rapid detection blood test will allow patients to be quickly identified and isolated if needed. The test was developed by the American company Corgenix, which recently entered an agreement to be acquired by ORGENTEC Diagnostika.
— ORGENTEC Diagnostika (@ORGENTEC) August 29, 2014
The rapid detection Ebola test is called the ReEBOV Antigen Rapid Test, and it’s still pretty accurate. It can identify just over nine out of every ten people who have Ebola and it consists of simply a piece of special paper and a test tube, similar to a pregnancy test.
“A drop of blood is placed on the paper, and if two lines appear, then it’s positive for Ebola,” Doug Simpson of Corgenix explained.
“It’s definitely a breakthrough,” Tarik Jasarevic from the World Health Organization said of the rapid detection tests on Friday, according to NPR.
According to the BBC, Ebola has killed more than 9,300 people and infected over 23,000. Though the disease’s spread has slowed significantly, last week alone, there were 128 new cases reported in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.
“The new test could help to quickly confirm outbreaks in remote areas without the need to send samples to a testing clinic and wait for results,” Dr. Ben Neuman, a virology expert from the University of Reading, explained. “The new test isn’t about saving the lives of infected people, but it can help in the long run by making it easier and quicker to detect Ebola outbreaks.”
Doctors Without Borders isn’t completely sold on using the newly approved rapid detection Ebola test though, according to NPR.
“We’re still discussing whether we’ll use it or not,” immunologist Erwan Piriou from Doctors Without Borders explained. “But right now, we don’t see an easy way to use this kind of test. We’re a bit surprised that it came out so early.”
Unfortunately, it also has a high false positive rate. According to NPR, about 15 percent of people without Ebola will test positive for Ebola using the new rapid detection tests. Before shipping the Ebola rapid detection tests out of the United States, the FDA will still need to approve them.
[Photo Credit: Corgenix Medical Corp]